The Melbourne Identity
Melbourne: that guy at the party that you think you have all figured out right away but once you start talking he reveals one fascinating facet of himself after another. Before you know it you’re completely enchanted by him and all of his surprises.
So, a little while ago, I introduced my saga about backpacking up the east coast of Australia. Chapter One’s location is Melbourne, Victoria, possibly now my favorite place in this world.
This city will always have a huge place in my heart because it is the first place I lived abroad, first city I stayed in a hostel in, first city I panicked in when I realized I was halfway across the world from anyone I knew, and the city that taught me that not having a tangible home isn't such a bad thing. For me, home isn't where my heart is; my home is my heart. I think that's what every traveller learns along the way. Each destination and person I meet that becomes dear to me helps build a nice sturdy foundation to my home.
I’ll be honest here, when I first set out on my Aussie adventure, I thought I was just going to come to Melbourne, stay for half a year in one apartment, maybe do a few cool things, and then head back to the states so I didn’t waste any more time starting my “career.” The rich culture, effervescent people, quirky architecture, and infinite list of things to do made me fall in love with this city and the idea of a nomadic life.
A lot of other travelers I met were just doing their east coast trip from Cairns to Sydney or Sydney to Cairns, missing out on Melbourne entirely. When I asked why, they said, “Oh, you know, we heard its just like Sydney so for time and money reasons were just gonna skip it.” NO. NO!!! Melbourne is unlike any other city in Australia. I’d have said unlike any other city on this planet, but I haven’t finished exploring the world yet. I’ll report back to you in 70 years once I’ve been to every country.
Please, take it from me, I lived in Melbourne for seven months, SEVEN months, and still didn’t have enough time to see everything the city has to offer.
Here is a list of things I advocate doing (aka things I did that are totally awesome):
Take the City Circle Tram, a free circulation around the city that gives you heaps of fun facts about Melbourne and is great to do on your first day because it'll help you get your bearings.
See a footy game at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). It’s the largest stadium in Australia (largest in the southern hemisphere for that matter) and guaranteed to be an unforgettable time. The seats are divided among teams, which you choose when you purchase your ticket. This makes the experience all the more fun. I’ve been to all types of sporting games in the US, and let me tell you, Australian footy fans put all other sport goers to shame. Treat yourself to a footy scarf, a schooner of James Boags Draught and get ready for an uproarious time!
3. Take a wine tour in the Yarra River Valley, or a brewery tour (White Rabbit was a great time!) if that's more your style.
4. Take a tour of the incredible graffiti in Melbourne, I’ve never seen anything like it. You can take a guided tour if you want info and such, like this one, http://www.melbournestreettours.com, or you can wander on your own like me. Here’s a map of the best spots https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zlhvH5u-XQHY.k7EmlMU6xH4s&hl=en.
5. See the penguin parade at Phillip Island, or you can see them at St. Kilda too.
6. Visit Federation Square and the Botanical Gardens (perfect on a sunny day).
7. Have brunch al fresco on Degraves Street.
8. Shop at The Queen Victoria Market.
9. See the iconic Brighton Beach Houses.
10. Drive the Great Ocean Road (click here to learn more).
11. Brave the Eureka Skytower Edge on a clear day (if you're not afraid of heights).
12. Take a trip to any of the loads of museums in Melbourne, like The ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image), Immigration Museum, Melbourne Museum, or The National Gallery of Victoria. Most are free, some are paid, all are worth the visit.
13. Have a beach day in St. Kilda and/or visit Luna Park.
The beauty of Melbourne is that the city is constantly buzzing because of the big events and festivals that take place there. Seriously, there is always something going on. While I was there, I got to attend Melbourne Spring Fashion week, The Australian Footy Championship, Anzac day, and the Melbourne Cup, and that’s just naming a few. Use this website to see what’s going on in the city while you’re there: http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/WHATSON/FESTIVALS/Pages/festival_calendar.aspx.
I could really go on and on about what you should do in Melbourne, but, truthfully, everything here is amazing so you can’t go wrong.
Favorite people I met along the way: My four best friends previously mentioned in my Tassie Blog. I learned so much from these fellow travelers and am certain Melbourne wouldn't have been half the experience it was without them.
Fun fact: Australians take their footy so seriously that the day of the national championship is actually a public holiday in Victoria. Employees have the day off, therefore, the drinking starts early and streets get rowdy!
Extra fun fact: Melbourne was voted number one most livable city in the world five times in a row, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit. I'm not entirely sure about the validity of the report because you have to pay to look at it, but it sounds legit, right?